Sea turtle swims wild after long rehab at 2 aquariums

January 15, 2022 GMT

GULFPORT, Miss (AP) — An endangered sea turtle is back in the ocean after more than a year of rehabilitation at aquariums in Boston and Mississippi.

The Mississippi Aquarium released the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle named Typhoon on Thursday into the Mississippi Sound at Biloxi.

Kemp’s ridleys are the world’s smallest sea turtles and the most endangered of those found in U.S. waters.

The turtle is one of two Kemp’s ridleys that the New England Aquarium asked the aquarium in Gulfport to care for as veterinarians in Boston prepared for this year’s wave of cold-stunned sea turtles.

More than 550 turtles washed ashore and were rescued this past fall and this winter.

Typhoon was treated for pneumonia, anemia, and an infected shoulder joint — a problem that required surgery. He underwent the operation, as well as acupuncture and other treatments, in Boston.

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Typhoon was rescued December 12, 2020, off the coast of Orleans, Massachusetts, Adam Kennedy, manager of rescue and rehabilitation at the aquarium in Boston, said in a joint news release with Mississippi Aquarium.

Sea turtles become weak and lethargic when the water temperature drops below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees centigrade).

Pneumonia and anemia are common among cold-stunned turtles and bone infection occurs in about 1%, said Dr. Charles Innis, director of animal health at the New England Aquarium.

“It is believed to be caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream during the time that the turtles are very cold when their immune system is not strong,” he said.

New England Aquarium staff noticed something was wrong with the turtle’s right front flipper last spring.

Innis said Typhoon got antibiotics for several months before veterinarians removed the dead bone and cleaned out the joint in July 2021.

Typhoon’s release “is a huge success story and a testament to the vast, collaborative network of sea turtle rescue partners,” Innis said.

It leaves 51 other Kemp’s ridley sea turtles cared for at Mississippi Aquarium. They will be released as they complete their rehabilitation.